Doha, Qatar
Aerial views of buildings in Doha on May 9, 2014 in Doha, Qatar.Francois Nel/Getty Images

In a big blow for the Arab country of Qatar, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has turned down their application for membership. The western military alliance, it said, is reserved only for nations in America and Europe.

The 29-country alliance was responding to comments by Qatar's Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, who yesterday said that joining NATO was a long-term strategic ambition of the Arab nation.

"According to Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, only European countries can become members of NATO," an official of NATO told AFP. "Qatar is a valuable and longstanding partner of NATO," the official added.

Al-Attiyah's remarks come on the anniversary of the year-long diplomatic dispute between the nation and its Arab neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. "Qatar today has become one of the most important countries in the region in terms of the quality of armament," Attiyah told the official magazine of the Qatari Defence Ministry, Altalaya.

Earlier this year, NATO had stated that Qatar was not an ally, denying claims made by Qatari media outlets exaggerating the deal between NATO and the Arab country. NATO said that it had only signed a security agreement, and had not become a member, unlike some reports. 

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with the nation, accusing it of supporting Iran and terrorism. They expelled all Qatari nationals and forced the country to recall its diplomats. Taking it a step further, the countries also closed all land and air borders to the nation, preventing trade and commerce.

Nationals of the four nations are not allowed to travel to Qatar, nor do they directly engage in trade. 

The blockade has forced Qatar to turn to its European allies for support, importing vegetables and fruits from Europe instead of Saudi or UAE. In response, it also banned goods imported from the countries. Additionally, Qatar granted permanent residency to certain foreign nationals to boost its workforce.

Diplomatic efforts mediated by the UN and the United States have so far proved fruitless as the countries have refused to budge on their stance.